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The Maldive Shark by Herman Melville | Poets.org

The Maldive Shark
by Herman Melville
About the Shark, phlegmatical one,
Pale sot of the Maldive sea,
The sleek little pilot-fish, azure and slim,
How alert in attendance be.
From his saw-pit of mouth, from his charnel of maw
They have nothing of harm to dread,
But liquidly glide on his ghastly flank
Or before his Gorgonian head;
Or lurk in the port of serrated teeth
In white triple tiers of glittering gates,
And there find a haven when peril's abroad,
An asylum in jaws of the Fates!
They are friends; and friendly they guide him to prey,
Yet never partake of the treat--
Eyes and brains to the dotard lethargic and dull,
Pale ravener of horrible meat.

About This Poem

Melville's adventures as a seaman in 1845 inspired him to write. On one voyage, he was captured and held for several months by the Typees; when he returned unscathed, friends encouraged Melville to write the escapade down. Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life became his first literary success; the continuation of his adventures appeared in his second book, Omoo.
Born in 1819, Herman Melville is best known for the novel Moby-Dick(1851). Considered by modern scholars to be one of the great American novels, the book was dismissed by Melville's contemporaries and he made little money from the effort. Melville's first published book of poems Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War (1866) is regarded by many critics as a work as ambitious and rich as any of his novels. However, Melville's remains relatively unrecognized as a poet.
Herman Melville died on September 28, 1891.

 

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